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Image / Editorial

‘Brave and inspirational’ family of women praised for speaking out about sexual abuse

by Erin Lindsay
16th Jun 2020

Trigger warning: rape and sexual abuse

The seven daughters celebrated outside the Central Criminal Court yesterday after their father was sentenced

A family of seven daughters and one aunt have been praised for their courage in speaking out against the sexual abuse they endured at the hand of their father and brother.

James O’Reilly, 75, was sentenced yesterday to 20 years in prison for raping and sexually abusing his sister and seven daughters over a 23 year period. As well as sexually abusing his victims, they were subject to beatings, starvation and degradation, against a backdrop of poverty and squalor.

O’Reilly’s seven daughters — Philomena Connors, Helen O’Donoghue, Mary Moran, Margaret Hutchinson, Anne O’Reilly, Bridget O’Reilly and Kathleen O’Driscoll — embraced and cheered outside the Central Criminal Court in Dublin yesterday after their father was sentenced.

The women waived their right to anonymity in the case, so they could name their abuser publicly.

As they celebrated, the oldest of the seven, Helen O’Donoghue, appealed to other victims of sexual abuse to come forward.

“Stand up and be who you are. Don’t be afraid, like we were — we were afraid for years.”

“Now I’m not afraid because… he’s going to do the time [that] he should have done years ago, if we had have had the strength and the courage to come forward.”

In a statement read on their behalf, the women asked if the abuse they endured would have continued if they had been a settled family. “They were vulnerable Traveller children forced to live on the edges of Irish society. Already looked down on, discriminated against and denied their basic human rights. Does this denial of their rights also extend to their right to protection as children?”


Their celebrations, shown on RTÉ News, has been retweeted over 2000 times on Twitter, with many social media users praising the sisters bravery in speaking out against sexual abuse.

Academic and member of the President’s Council of State Dr. Sindy Joyce called the women ‘inspirational’, and praised their exposure of ‘institutional state neglect and discrimination’ of Travellers.

In a statement, Sandra McDonagh, Chairperson of the National Traveller Women’s Forum, said: “Violence including sexual violence is unacceptable and it is crucial that supports and access to justice are accessible to all communities, including the Traveller community”.

Dublin Rape Crisis Centre urged others suffering under sexual abuse to come forward and ask for help. “Please remember you do not have to manage alone” they added.

If you or someone you know is suffering with sexual violence or abuse, you can contact Dublin Rape Crisis Centre’s 24 Hour Helpline at 1800 77 8888. 

One in Four is a charity that supports adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse. You can call on 01 662 4070.

Featured image: via RTÉ News

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